Last spring baseball games at Island Crest Park were often scheduled on a day-to-day basis. With the grass infield subject to poor conditions in the wet Washington spring, games for the Mercer Island High School baseball team could quickly and often change time and location. That meant a backlog for the other games and programs using the fields.
Those days are now behind the park as the City of Mercer Island has recently finished replacing the infield with a new turf surface.
The project, which began last fall, put turf in the infield and will allow much more use this coming spring.
“It’s turned out really, really nice,” said Parks Superintendent Jason Kintner. “The community stepped up, and we’re very happy.”
Jerry Goldberg, a member of the Mercer Island High School baseball booster club, which helped with funding the field, said he and the rest of the members are extremely happy.
“It’s great, not just for the high school team, but for all the others who use it,” he said. “It’s going to benefit hundreds of kids.”
Goldberg said the project was one that has been in the works for years, but because of funding or timing issues, just never happened.
“Last spring we finally got frustrated enough with all the rainouts and rescheduling that the boosters offered to help raise money,” said Goldberg. “We went through the process with the city and got the school district to donate as well. It put the team at a huge disadvantage; they couldn’t play the first six or eight games at home because it was too wet.”
All told, the boosters and Friends of Island Crest Park raised around $150,000, and secured a $25,000 donation from the school district. Goldberg said the money represents donations from around 35 families who either have kids who play baseball for the high school now, all the way down to families whose kids are still in Little League.
“Last year we planned events around games — called it Friday Night Lights for games when we played under the lights on Friday. The idea was to invite the Little League teams and do giveaways; it was really frustrating because I think each of those games ended up being played on a Tuesday because of the rainouts,” said Goldberg. “This goes a long way to upgrading the program.”
The outfield is also getting a makeover, as the organic material that the Parks Department uses has been stripped away, and will be replaced to create a much better surface. That portion of the field should be done in four to six weeks, just in time for the spring season.
Kintner said the outfield is sand-based with the organic mulch material on top. Once the material begins to hit the end of its useful timespan, the field gets very muddy and hard to use, which happened last fall for local youth teams.
Premier Field Development was awarded the bid for the project in October last year, and the city had a project budget of $353,572. The project’s final expenditure came in at $328,706, roughly $24,000 under budget. On top of the donations from the boosters and school district, the city chipped in $153,706. The money not spent on the project will remain in the city’s CIP Fund.
The new field is under warranty for eight years and will follow a fee schedule similar to the one used at the South Mercer Playfields. A portion of each fee will go into the sinking fund for the field, which will help with field replacement in years to come.
“It means a lot more use,” said Kintner. “It’s less maintenance, and more users can use it. In the spring, high school baseball starts, and then it rains and the field kept getting backlogged. It means a lot more playability.”
The high school baseball season begins Feb. 25. Plans are in the works for an opening ceremony for the new field, likely to be held in the second week of March.
To learn more about the field and scheduling, visit the Mercer Island Parks & Recreation website at www.mercergov.org.